jeudi 12 juillet 2007

(A map of the gates, fortresses and towers in the Old Medina Of Fez)

When a person talks about the cultural tourism in Fez, feels some solemnity as s/he is talking on a leading city in this type of tourism, not only on the level of Morocco, but also on both Islamic and universal levels; and for that reason, UNESCO declared it a world heritage site in 1981 as a formal acknowledgement of its worldwide value and cultural heritage.

Nowadays, it is noticeable the rising concentration of so many countries on their historical sites and whatever is connected to the cultural tourism, in order to make of them touristic products par excellence, ready to attract a huge number of tourists; as the case of Egypt with the “pyramids”, France with “le louvre museum”, Spain with “Al hambra palace”, or the United Mexican states with what is left from the “Mayan and Aztec” civilizations.

Being aware of that, I am really proud of the fact that Morocco by its turn is privileged with what is left from the civilizations and dynasties that have come across centuries, as monuments, historical sites…that Fez represents them in a harmonious and beautiful way; also, I am very enthusiast, to benefit from that great heritage touristically speaking; in one hand, identifying more and more our heritage and culture, and in the other hand, benefiting from it economically speaking.

So, I consider this modest blog, a trip with Fez across its great history, showing and identifying as well, an aspect of its cultural heritage, which is the military architecture demonstrated in the gates, fortresses and towers which had protected Fez in the past, and now contribute in the attraction of tourists, so that I will propose some ideas and solutions to enhance their present role.

The History of Fez

(The Old Medina Of Fez)

It is generally believed that Fez was founded the 4th January 808 on the right bank of a river known by two names “Oued Fez” or “Oued el Jawahir” by Moulay Idriss the second, who succeeded his father Moulay Idriss the first; the descendant of the prophet Mohammed and the founder of the Idrissid dynasty in Morocco after his escape from the abbasyine pursuit in the orient in 788.

After one year of founding Al Andalus bank “Adwat Al Andalus” on the right side of Oued Fez, in order to host the waves of Arab families coming from Andalucia, Moulay Idriss the second founded on the left bank of the same river Al Qarawiyine bank “Adwat Al Qarawiyine” to host a huge number of kairouanese families coming from Tunisia. These twin and walled cities formed what is called Fez El Bali (The ancient Fez).

With the domination of the Almoravid dynasty on Fez in 1075, thanks to Youssef Ibn Tachefine, he dismantled the divisive walls of the twin cities and unified them by erecting a single circuit, and some bastions in order to surround the two banks, because they did from Fez a military base, from which they initiated a lot of attacks on the north of Morocco, the central Morocco and even on Andalucia when they were asked to support the Muslims against the Christian attacks to recuperate Andalucia; so that Fez known a union and economic and religious motives for future expansion.

In 1145, and after a long siege of seven months, the Almohads seized control of Fez and used it as a military base, whereas Marrakech as the capital of their dynasty, this does not mean that Fez was brushed aside, as it had known under the role of the Almoravid and the Almohad dynasties an urban development, economic growth and a valuable artistic expertise, and thanks to these two dynasties the city known its Andalusian attribute.

In 1274, the Merinids conquered Fez thanks to their leader Yaacoub Ibn Al Marini who did choose Fez as a capital of his dynasty so he gave the order to construct the New Fez “Fez El Jdid” in 1276, where there have been the Merinid court, palace and headquarters…etc.

In 1554, came the reign of the Saadian Dynasty that its kings used Fes as a resort in which they resided for long periods to have rest and relaxation, so they took care of its architecture and build beautiful palaces…and they devoted themselves too to the fortification of Fez by erecting fortresses and towers like the northern tower “Borj Nord” and the southern tower “Borj Sud”, and Tamdart fortress to protect Fez from possible incursions.

In 1666, Moulay Rachid; the first king of the Alaouite dynasty; entered Fes and worked hard to enrich its military architecture, to build cultural facilities and to restore buildings.

In 1912, the French protectorate was established, so the French built the third part of the city under the name of Dar Dbibgh which is an ordered new town of regular avenues to house the European population in comfort and safey.

In 1950, the French protectorate built also the the fourth part of the city called Ain Haroun in order to be a model of residence that should be spread in all the city.

Borj Qarawiyine:

Borj Qarawiyine belongs to Dar Al Mouakkit “time setter house” which is close to the Qarawiyine mosque. The house is composed of a ground floor, an upper floor, a patio and of course the tower which is situated in the southern side of the house, rising to a height similar to that of the minarets of the Old Medina.
The Qarawiyine Tower was used by observers who were scholars in astronomy, so as to observe the beginning of the lunar cycle; it was used too by the Neffar “the trumpeter” to wake up the Old Medina’s dwellers to have their last meal “S’hour” before sunrise during the holy month of Ramadan
Nowadays, the house and the tower by its turn know some restoration and small changes, as they are designed to be an astrolabe museum.

Borj Touil:

Borj Touil « the tall tower » is constructed by the Saadian Sultan Al-Mansour in the 16th century, in order to strengthen the perimeter wall of Fez-Jdid. This tower took its name from the neighbourhood where it is.
And because the principal weapons which were used a lot in the Saadian era were the cannons, Borj Touil’s outer façade is pierced by large arched openings for cannons.
It has been recently restored thanks to the preservation of the Medina project.

Borj Sidi Bounafaa:

Borj Sidi Bounafaa « the tower of my lord Bounafaa » is situated below Bab Jiaf area and in the north of Boulkhsissat neighbourhood. This tower has formerly defended the Mellah and its dwellers from external assaults from neighbouring tribes, and sometimes attacks from the residents of the Old Medina during times of rebellion.

Borj Cheikh Ahmed:

Borj Cheikh Ahmed « the tower of Master Ahmed » which was built in the 17th century by the Saadian Sultan Abou Abbas, is actually situated in the south of Jnan Sbil garden.
The tower has been recently restored thanks to ADER “agence pour la dedensification et la rehabilitation de la medina de fes”, which let the architecture of the outer façade unchanged, so that there are large arched openings for cannons which were the preferable weapons of the Saadians.

Borj Sud:

Borj Sud « the Southern tower » was built by the Saadian Sultan Ahmed Al Mansour Addahbi (the golden) in a period of time ranging between 1587 and 1609 by Portuguese prisoners in order to improve the defense of the Medina and to intimidate the Fassis too.
It is located face in face with the northern tower, the two towers are linked with an underground tunnel used by soldiers and guards to cross quickly and freely the Old Medina with their horses, but nowadays this tunnel is closed.
The tower offers a panoramic view over the Old Medina and its environs, and that is why it hosted the sound and light of Fez show, and in the near future, the tower is going to be changed into a museum of the Moroccan military architecture.

The Towers Of Fez

Borj Nord:

Borj Nord « the northern tower » was built in 1582 by the Saadian Sultan Ahmed Al Mansour Addahbi (the golden) on the site of an earlier fortress on a hilltop north of Fez. A century and half later, in the Alaouite period, the elegant lance shaped corner redoubts were added to have its present shape; star - shaped tower.
This tower was built because the city was in need of a strong tower to defend itself at that time against the Turks and the city dwellers from mountain tribes and external assaults.
In 1964, the weapons collection of Dar Batha museum was moved here to form a separate museum of arms, nowadays it has a collection which takes the person through the whole history of armaments with cases of prehistoric stone age tools, Bronze and Iron age weapons, as well as cases of rare medieval European devices and a comprehensive display of 18th, 19th, and 20th century weapons.

Kasbah Moulay Ahmed Dar Dbibgh:

Kasbah Moulay Ahmed Dar Dbibgh is a fortress which is far away from the old Medina, as it is located in the new medina and precisely in the north of Saada Avenue. Nowadays, it houses a huge number of families, but what is dangerous is that this fortress is on the verge of falling down, as there are so many wide fissures in its walls.

Kasbah Chems:

Kasbah Chems « the sun fortress » was built by Alaouites near to boujloud gardens (Jnan-Sbil). What remain of this fortress is the gate which bears the same name, and a part of it which is restored but closed.

Kasbah Nouar:

Kasbah Nouar « the blossoms fortress » was built prior to the construction of Fez El-Jdid in 12th or 13th century. It is now located in the Sellaline market between Bab Almahrouq and Bab Boujloud.

The Kasbah is very big that hosts hundreds of families and stores. It has an impressive gate called Bab Chorfa. The Kasbah, which has a high crenellated wall, was completely restored in the late ten years.

Kasbah Tamdart:

Kasbah Tamdert « the fortress of Tamdert » is located between Bab Fettouh and Bab Khokha on the same perimeter wall in order to reinforce it. Nowadays, this fortress is in the mere oblivion.

The fortresses of Fez

Kasbah Chrarda:

Kasbah Chrarda « the Chrarda fortress » is a huge square-shaped fortress surrounded by a high crenellated wall with numerous guard towers. It was built by Sultan Moulay Rachid during the 17th century, in order to lodge first the Chrarga tribes, then the Oudaya and later on the Chrarda whose sole mission was to ensure civil security in the city.

Nowadays, the Kasbah is parted into two parts; that on the Bab Sagma side there is Ibn Khaldun high school and Qarawiyine University, whereas on the other side, there is Ibn Al Khatib public hospital.

mercredi 11 juillet 2007

Bab Chrarda:

Bab Chrarda is the main gate of the kasbah « fortress » bearing the same name. Of course, it was built with the Kasbah in the 17th century by Moulay Rachid who is considered the founder of the Alaouite dynasty in order to accommodate the Chrarga tribes. This monumental gate which is decorated with harmonious engravings is located at the side of a crenellated tower of the same Kasbah.

Bab Sagma:
Bab Sagma took its name from Amina Sagma who was a pious and god-fearing, buried on this site in 1737. The gate was erected in the post Merenid epoch and later on renovated by Moulay Hassan the first in order to be symmetrical and similar to Bab Sbaa (the lion gate). Surely, it was a monumental and impressive gate considering the distance between the two towers. Its exterior façade was decorated with long cursive inscriptions on Zellij mosaic tiles. Nowadays, just the two octagonal towers remain on each side of the road leading to the bab sagma cemetery, Bab Boujloud…etc.

Bab Sbaa:

Bab Sbaa « the lion gate » was built during the process of founding Fez-Jdid. It has known a lot of changes such as additions and restorations especially during the creation of Moulay Hassan square.It is made up of an impressive central arch flanked by two small entrances, and three windows in each side.It is well decorated with coloured Zellij “ceramics” in both facades; the interior and exterior ones.

Bab Makina:

Bab Makina “the arsenal gate” is the gate of The Makina which was commissioned by the 'Alawid Sultan Moulay el-Hassan as a weapons manufacturing facility in 1885. It is often interpreted as one of the first signs of modern industrialization in Fez, and was part of the Sultan's plan to modernize his army.
The Makina was built on the western façade of the Bab Dkaken and incorporated a 13th century aqueduct into one of its walls. It housed facilities for metalworking and woodworking, and was roofed with cross vaults.

Bab Dkaken:
Bab Dkaken « the grocery stores gate » dates back to the 13th century during the Merinid dynasty. It belongs to the Merenid gates of the Old Mechouar. It is a triple arched gate beautifully decorated with coloured Zellij “ceramics”.

Ferdinand, prince of Portugal, was imprisoned for six years in this gate after he had surrendered himself as hostage to allow his army to escape after a disastrous attempt to seize Tangier in 1473; his brother refused to return Ceuta to the Sultan in exchange for his release. On Ferdinand’s death his naked body was hung from the gate, pierced through the heels like a butchered goat, where it swung for four days. His corpse was then gutted, stuffed with straw and put on show for a further 29 years.

Bab Boujat:

Bab Boujat, also known by the gate of the great Mechouar, nowadays it links the moulay Abdellah district to the avenue bordering the Bab Sagma cemetery. Bab Boujat was constructed in the mid 19th century, when Morocco was under the reign of Sultan Moulay Abderrahmane. Actually, the unornamented crenellated gate is composed of a big entryway in the middle through which vehicles pass, and two other small lateral entries for pedestrians.

Bab Chems:

Bab Chems « the sun gate » is situated between Jnane Sbil garden and the Moulay Idriss high school. It is one of the remnants of a Qasba “fortress” that had the same name, and was erected by the Alaouites to house a group of armed forces from the Rif region in the era of Moulay Hassan the first. The gate is constituted of two central arched gates and two small adjacent entries for pedestrians in both sides: the central entries; one is ornamented by blue and green zellij “ceramics”; whereas the second is not. The two arches suffer a lot from the passage of vehicules, as there are a lot of scratches and damages onto their surfaces.

Bab Semmarine:

The gate was called first Uyune Sanhaja “the gate of Sanhaja springs” which was an important Moroccan Berber tribe, and then it was named Bab Semmarine due to two reasons: first, because it was the place of guild artisans who shore horses, mules…etc; second, because of the soldiers who used to guard the gateway at night.
Bab Semmarin, which is placed between two big towers, represents the main access to Fez-jdid if a person comes from Boukhsissat or the Mellah.nowadays, it houses a police station in one side, and in the other side it houses a market that used to be the storage silos of the Merinid city.
The architecture of this gate is original; “…the gate had an indirect entrance adorned with domes. Its outer façade presents a solid semicircular arch, reinforced by a decorative multi-foiled arch. A band of intertwing geometrical shapes surrounded the whole gate…” the explanatory sign of Bab Semmarine.

Bab Magana:

Bab Magana « the watch gate » was given such name because of the clock which is still hanged above the gate entrance, but no longer runs as it is broken.
The gate is an angled gate, decorated with simple engravings and “L” shaped. It was built during the erection of the Mellah neighbourhood in the 13th century, as it was its main entrance. The gate stays one of the landmarks of the Mellah neighbourhood.

Bab Lmellah:
Bab Mellah is an extremely narrow unornamented entrance to the south of the Mellah neighbourhood face to face with Bab Magana in the north of the Mellah.

Bab Lamar:

Bab Lamar (the order gate) situated in front of the main gate of the royal palace, and lying on the parking lot of Mellah neighbourhood.
It was called so, because in the past, the orders of the Sultans were avowed publicly by the mkhaznia (the Sultan fellows) in this gate.
Bab Lamar is adjacent to a tower, and beautifully decorated with engravings and coloured ceramics, in order to fit with the outstanding landscape of the royal palace ground and gates.

Bab Dar Lmekhzen:

Bab Dar Lmakhzen « the Royal Palace Gate » erected in the 1960’s, as the surrounding wall of the royal palace is constituted of parts belonging to many historical eras and pierced by a lot of monumental doors, but this gate remains the main gate of the palace, opening onto a vast esplanade in which the king receives his foreign guests coming to Fez. The gate is characterized by its seven symmetrically arranged doors and windows with rich and varied ornamentation covered by gilt-bronze, the zellij mosaic and flanked with white marble columns.

Bab Chorfa:

Bab Chorfa « the gate of nobles » is that impressive gate of Kasbah Nouar “blossoms fortress” built in 1069, and situated in the Sellaline Street.
The gate has been recently restored during the restoration of the whole fortress. The gate is gigantic, decorated with harmonious engravings, placed between two big towers and has an “L” shaped entrance housing a police station.

Bab Riafa:

Bab Riafa « Rifian people gate » is the sole remnant of the Kasbah Riafa that housed the contingent from the Rif region during Moulay Hassan’s reign, and which used to enclose the Old Medina to the south.
This gate is composed of two big arched entrances through which hundreds of cars pass everyday as it is situated in a principal road leading to the Old Medina.
It has been restored a few years ago, they added to it two coloured-glass windows which are illuminated in the evening.

Bab Ain Azliten:

Bab Ain Azliten is the gate of one of the oldest districts of the Old Medina as this district dates back to the Zenet period ranging from the 10th and 11th centuries. The gate and the district took their name from a Berber tribe called Azliten. Unfortunately, this gate was destroyed in order to erect a road till the Talaa Kbira Street, and what remain from the gate are just small remnants at the sides of the road.

Bab Mahrouq:

Bab Mahrouq « the burned one gate » was called before as Bab Charia’a “the law gate”. In fact, it has been called Bab Mahrouq, due to two turbulent real stories: the first one takes Sidi Lissan-Addine Belkhatib as the protagonist; he was a learned scholar, poet and friend of Ibn Khaldun, after being murdered in his cell in Fes jail in 1374, his body was burned at this gate, because he was accused of being a heretic (A person who holds religious beliefs in conflict with the dogma of a religion); Later on, in front of this gate, a small mausoleum was built in his honour.
The second story has another protagonist who is Al Oubeidi (a leader of Rif Ghomara tribe); an opponent of Sultan Al-Nacir Ben Youssef Al Mansour who was by his turn burned in this gate as a warning to all the opponents of the Sultan. So the change in name is attributed to those two people
The gate was erected at the beginning of the 13th century under the reign of the Sultan Al-Nacir Ben Youssef Al Mansour while the process of rebuilding the surrounding wall that had partially destroyed by his grandfather, the caliph Abdelmoumen.

Bab Rmila:

Bab Rmila is the entrance to Rmila neighbourhood in the old Medina and more precisely in one of the oldest areas in the andalusian district that dates back to the Idrissid era. The gate is quite simple, small and unadorned.

Bab Khokha:
This gate was first named Bab El-Kanissa “the church gate” by Moulay Idriss the second who built it in the 9th century in Adouat El Qarawiyine (El Qarawiyine bank) and more specifically in an area belonged to the Beni Yarghtan tribe, by the Oued El- Kbir (the big river) at Bel Chybouba (around Nekhaline and Qantrat bin lamdoun “the between cities bridge”).

In the beginning of the 12th century, Abdelmoumen Ben Ali, who was at that time the Aalam or fkih “the master” of the whole maghreb, destroyed Bab El Kanissa in 1145, and yet in 1204, the Almohad El Nasser Ben El Mansour built the gate and gave it the name of Bab Khokha (the skylight-window gate)

Unfortunately the gate disappeared around the mid-20th century for unknown reasons, but the neighbourhood in which existed the gate is still bearing its name.

Bab Rcif:

This gate has been recently opened onto the left of R’cif square; it was created in the 20th century in order to facilitate access to the old medina.
The R’cif gate has a small, and a little bit decorated with simple engravings entrance, in the gate there are stairs that lead directly to the heart of the famous R’cif market.

Bab Jdid:

Bab Jdid « the new gate » is located on the same road of jnanat bab lahdid leading to Rcif; between Bab Ziat and Bab Hamra, it was first called Bab Zitoun Ibn Ateya when it was erected in the 13th century. The gate is undecorated, but modest engravings; it has one arched entrance in façade, and in the other façade there are two arched entrances, but one of them is closed. Nowadays, the gate is neglected and at the verge of falling down.

mardi 10 juillet 2007

Bab Lahdid:

There was confusion about this gate concerning its location, that the writer of “Zahrat-Al-As” Abi Al Hassan Ali Aljazani in the 16th century mentioned two gates bearing the same name: one opened by Moulay Idriss the second between Bab Sensla and Bab Qala’a, whereas the second is today’s Bab Lahdid (the Iron Gate) which is known to all the Fassi people to be located near to Oum El Banin high school in Ziat neighborhood, and by its narrow and unornamented entrance.

Bab Fettouh:

Bab Fettouh was first called Bab Al-Qibla“the cynosure gate” as it has been the gate of a city that has attracted a lot of people from sub-Saharian Africa, the Maghreb and from all over the world. Then it was named as Bab Fettouh- its present name- thanks to a Zenet prince called Foutouh who was the eldest son of the prince Ibn Ateya Senhaji and who in the 11th century ruled Adouat El Andalus, rebuilt the gate and gave it his name, whereas his brother Agissa got control of Adouat El Qarawiyine. In the era of Sultan Moulay Slimane (1792-1822) it was rebuilt and expanded by his principal architect the great Maalam (master mason) Al – Sudani, to take its present shape; an undornamented huge gate that has a central arch flanked by two symmetrical smaller arches.

Bab Sidi Boujida:

Bab Sidi Boujida is an Idrissid gate that enjoyed many names across centuries. First it was called Bab Abi Soufine before having the name of Bab Bani Msafer which is used now by a gate in the Keddane neighbourhood.
The present name of this gate is derived from the Sidi Boujida mausoleum that is greatly favoured by students before exams and women before marriage.
Nowadays, the gate suffers a lot from the market that surrounds it, and from a crack in its surface.

Bab Guissa:
The Zenet prince Aguissa, who ruled Adouat Al Qarawiyine “Al Qarawiyine district” in the 11th century, gave his orders to build a gate to bear his name “Agissa” as his brother Foutouh did in his Andalusian district.
The gate was rebuilt by Nasser Ibn Yaacoub El-Mansour after his grandfather, Abdelmoumen destroyed it.
The present form of the gate is ascribed with an indirect entrance in which there are two closed houses facing each other, and a semicircular arch topped with multi-foiled arch dominating the exterior façade. There is a neighbouring fountain called Bab guissa fountain, which is magnificently ornamented by the typical fassi zellij, so that the gate and the fountain had been the setting of story tellers over centuries to entertain Fassi people by telling them tales and popular legends; nowadays, the gate is famous of the nearby bird market which opens every Friday and Sunday.

Bab Ifriquia:

Bab Ifriquia « the gate of Africa » is a closed gate which branches off into Sellaline Street. It is an Idrissid gate made of arches and domes and a curved entrance lacking embellishment and ornamentation.
a) The gates of Fez El-Bali:

Bab Boujloud:

Bab Boujloud: the gate, which is considered one of the main entrances to the Old Medina, and the western exit of Adouat El Qarawiyine, was built at the beginning of the 20th century and exactly in 1913 by the French protectorate authority thanks to the Maalam ( master mason ) Bouzabaa who added to this gate a touch of originality; the gate, which is made of a central arch and two small lateral arches, is decorated with the typical Fassi Zellij ( ceramics ): green(the colour of Islam) on the interior façade, and blue(the colour of Fez) on the exterior façade, so that when a person enters the Medina the gate is blue and when S/he exits it is green. Its size, architectural elements and balanced ornamentation make of it an impressive gate par excellence.